A New International Hotline Will Connect You With a 'Random Swede'


Scandinavians are known for their progressive politics, sustainable cities, and ability to survive cold winters. One thing they’re not known for is the gift of gab. In fact, the culture is famously quiet. However, thanks to Sweden's tourism association, you can now dial a telephone number, reach a Swede, and chat about everything from IKEA to Ingmar Bergman.

According to the Associated Press, the Swedish Tourist Association has set up a phone hotline dubbed the "Swedish Number.” Callers from around the globe can dial +46 771-793-336 (that's +46 771-SWEDEN) and they’ll be connected to a “random Swede.”

Swedish volunteers have downloaded an app, which sends the calls to them. The tourism board doesn’t vet the Swedes, and conversation topics aren’t pre-scripted or monitored (although they are recorded for safety’s sake). "It's like when Swedes travel the world. You don't know who they're going to talk to and what they're going to say," Magnus Ling, the head of the Swedish Tourist Association, told the AP.

According to the Swedish Tourist Association’s website for the initiative, their goal is to get people curious about Sweden, and to promote intercultural dialogue. The initiative also commemorates the 250th anniversary of Sweden's 1766 Freedom of the Press Act, which is said to be the world's first law to protect of the freedom of expression. On a more practical level, the tourism association is also using the initiative to recruit new members to their nonprofit, which is supported by membership fees.

If you’re wondering how many people would want to cold-call a Scandinavian stranger, the answer is “plenty.” As of Thursday afternoon, The New York Times reports that the Swedish Number had received about 7500 calls. (Most of them were from Turkey and the United States.) And by Thursday evening, around 3000 Swedes—many of whom had learned about the initiative via the news—had downloaded the conversation app.

Curious to learn more about the “Swedish Number," or simply want to engage in a cultural experience that's more authentic than eating IKEA meatballs? Make a call, watch the above video, or visit the initiative's website for more information.

[h/t Associated Press]

Banner image courtesy of iStock.